In addition to the economic crisis, which includes the crisis of balance of payments, the social and political system of Sri Lanka is also in deep calamity – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
The Government’s Budget clearly indicates that the Government does not have a pragmatic vision at all for overcoming the crisis facing Sri Lanka other than its greed for holding on to power.
The Government seems to be contemplating that it would be able to overcome the crisis facing Sri Lanka if the instalments and interest on foreign loans that it has obtained at commercial rates could be repaid by reducing imports to the maximum and refraining from resorting to new loans. The senseless and stupid nature of the Government’s thinking can be well understood by this fact alone.
Sri Lanka, with the size of its economy and the limited potential of foreign exchange earnings, does not possess the ability to repay foreign loan instalments and interest while maintaining socio-economic activities at a healthy level. It was after carefully evaluating all these facts relating to the current issue that the international credit rating agencies have predicted that Sri Lanka will inevitably go bankrupt.
If the Government wants to, it might still be possible to repay the instalment and interest of $ 500 million due in January and $ 1 billion in July by cutting back the spending on imports drastically and at the same time causing a huge damage to the economy. But this will not end the debt crisis. The pressure on the economy generated by import restrictions will intensify the country’s economic crisis while at the same time exacerbating the balance of payments crisis and accelerating the process of bankruptcy towards which the country is evidently moving.
The way the Government dreams of overcoming the debt crisis is no different from the idiotic manner in which it has attempted to improve agriculture relying solely on organic fertilisers to the exclusion of the use of chemical fertilisers.
How could one expect a Government, which has become so stupid in believing that agriculture can be sustained better by complete banning of all imports of chemical fertilisers and moving for organic fertilisers only, to resolve a crisis which is far greater and much more complex?
Prior to banning chemical fertilisers, the Government should have at least looked into whether there is any country in the world that has been able to sustain its agriculture successfully, using only organic fertilisers in the complete absence of the use of chemical fertilisers and other agro-chemicals. Also, first of all, it should have conducted adequate sample tests to ensure whether all kinds of crops could be grown by using only organic matter without using chemical fertilisers or other chemicals.
On the contrary, the ban on chemical fertilisers was imposed in an extremely arbitrary manner without doing any such tests. If this error has been made because the President was an inexperienced novice of the subject, the others in the Government who are experienced should have enlightened him of the objective facts and prevented the occurrence of this fault. But the fact that nothing has been done to prevent this error clearly reflects the degree of foolishness and stupidity of the Government.
In this context, the agricultural sector should have been utilised as the main segment to mitigate the crisis facing the country. Those who have lost their jobs should have been absorbed mainly into the agricultural sector. Avoiding a food shortage in this crisis also should have been made the primary responsibility of the agricultural sector. Instead, what the President of the country has done was to strangle Sri Lanka’s agriculture almost killing it under the false slogan of saving the peasants of Sri Lanka from the scourge of the Chronic Kidney Disease of undetermined cause, displaying his stupidity in maximum manner.
Consequently, the agricultural sector in Sri Lanka is now in a state of paralysis, deprived of its efficiency and productivity. Under the circumstances a famine in Sri Lanka could be an unavoidable side effect of this stupid policy. The nonsensical nature of the thinking and actions of the incumbent Sri Lankan Government can be understood from these policies.
The nature of the crisis
The crisis facing Sri Lanka is not limited to balance of payments issue only. Cutting imports and plunging the economy of the country into a mess, is not the solution to the balance of payments crisis; the ideal solution would be to secure the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has been set up by the United Nations, exclusively to facilitate the member states in the event they face balance of payments crises.
Sri Lanka, since becoming a member of it, has obtained loan facilities on 16 occasions from the International Monetary Fund when it has faced balance of payments crises in the past. Loans are granted by IMF at a nominal interest rate of 0.50%. It is true that conditions are imposed when granting loans to make economic activity more efficient and performance better. It is the beneficiary country, not the International Monetary Fund that benefits from those conditions. No government has pursued a policy of risking the economy as it is doing now when the country had faced balance of payments crises before.
By the time the internal civil war was ended in 2009 by the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government; Sri Lanka was in a major balance of payments crisis. The Mahinda Rajapaksa Government borrowed $ 2,566 million from the IMF to overcome the crisis. It is because of certain idiotic theorists who have made the President a prisoner of their ideologies that the Government has inclined to adopt some adverse policies playing with the very existence of the country, despite the availability of easy ways to secure loan facilities needed to resolve the balance of payments crisis at low interest rates and long-term repayment basis.
On the other hand, the economic crisis, including that of the balance of payments is only one major aspect of the crisis facing Sri Lanka. There are many other crises enmeshed in it and, of them the crisis of ethnicity, caste, religion and the political system are prominent. The ethnicity, caste and religious divisions have not only led to violent conflicts and great loss of life and property, but have made the society distorted and sick while disrupting the fabric of social cohesion and disintegrating the social system.
The State and the political system are also in deep crisis. Whatever maybe the good or bad of the Constitution, it has lost a great deal of its efficacy and legitimacy due to the fact that it has been corrupted by the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, at times collectively and at times separately. The State and its institutional system are in a state of rampant corruption, ridden with inefficiency and bent on oppressing the citizens to a maximum. The three main pillars of the power of the State, viz. the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, are in a pathetic state of bankruptcy where they can no longer fulfil their responsibilities.
In addition to the economic crisis, which includes the crisis of balance of payments, the social and political system of Sri Lanka is also in deep calamity. The cohesion of the social system is in a state of total disarray due to the escalation of ethnic, caste and religious divisions into violent clashes of large scale bloodshed; this was due to the failure of building the nation in such a way as to alleviate the ethnic, caste and religious divisions prevalent in the society. The system of governance is also in a state of complete collapse.
The three main pillars of powers of the State, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, are also in an inefficient and failed state having lost the system of checks and balances ought to have been preserved among the three institutions. The crisis in Sri Lanka is built on the combination of these three crises. The crisis facing Sri Lanka can be solved only through the implementation of a structural reform program designed to address all three major crises that have affected it, rather than limiting the approach only to one aspect of it.
Overcoming the crisis
Sri Lanka urgently needs such a structural reform program without delay. It is important to note that the Government does not possess the ability to spearhead such a program. The idiotic actions being taken by the Government at present can only aggravate the crisis facing the country and thrust the whole country into a situation of what has already caused to the realm of agriculture.
If the Head of State has some sense of conscience, he should create a platform and open the door for making a people’s constitution, taking into account the experiences of other countries (Thailand, Nepal, Rwanda and South Africa) that have overcome the crises of failure by creating a suitable framework for adopting people’s constitutions. If not, the people should mobilise themselves to the point of forcing the Government to resign.
The Government should not be allowed to make a spurious constitution which it is attempting to do at the moment. The people must make a strong protest and vigorous voice to win a suitable framework for making a People’s constitution (participatory constitution) for the safety and security of the country. If not, the Government should be forced to resign.
It is true that the Government has received a big mandate in two elections within a racist approach, but that mandate has now evaporated to a large extent. Sri Lanka is now on the brink of a grave catastrophe. The stupid actions of the Government will only exacerbate and expedite the destruction. The only way to minimise the damage would be to direct the country towards adopting a people’s constitution that will enable to recreate the state of Sri Lanka including the socio-political system and economy of the country.